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Who was Dr. Strangelove? Book and Film Review

Updated on January 17, 2015

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove

Edward Teller

Wernher von Braun

Leo Szilard

Inside the Making of Dr. Stranglove

Herman Kahn, Rand Corp's Nuclear Guru

Henry Kissinger

Who was Dr. Strangelove, anyway? "Doomsday Men"

The question of the identity of Dr. Strangelove is not susceptible to a ready answer. In his review of P.D. Smith's new book, "Doomsday Men," William Grimes answers thusly:

"Just who is the real Dr. Strangelove referred to in the book's subtitle, for example? It should be Leo Szilard, the closest thing to a protagonist that the book can claim. But Szilard, perhaps the most brilliant of the 'Hungarian quartet' involved in developing the atom bomb, clearly understood the dangers of a nuclear world. Far from reveling in the the destructive power of the new super weapons, he campaigned tirelessly to promote international control of atomic energy.

"Edward Teller, a more likely candidate, does not play an important enough role in the narrative to deserve subtitle billing, and in any case Stanley Kubrick, the director of 'Dr. Strangelove,' probably fashioned his deranged hero by assembling spare parts from any number of nuclear scientists, notably Teller and Wernher von Braun, the creator of the Nazi V-2 rocket and, after the war, the mastermind behind the American missile program. Slate's Bruce Gottlieb votes for a mixture of Herman Kahn, Henry Kissinger, Edward Teller and von Braun. Kahn is a good candidate because he was Rand Corporation's nuclear guru not coincidentally similar to Strangelove's connection to the "Bland Corporation." Kissinger was a relatively unknown professor at Harvard in 1963 when the movie was made. Gottiieb speculates that Kissinger may have "unconsciously patterned himself after Strangelove."

"It was indeed Szilard, however, who put the idea of a cobalt bomb into the public's mind. On a radio program in 1950 devoted to the H-bomb, he pointed out that it would be relatively easy to rig a hydrogen bomb with a substance--he later identified cobalt as ideal for the purpose--that would capture the neutrons released by the bomb, turn radioactive and then spread out across the Earth, enveloping the planet in what one of the characters in "Dr. Strangelove" calls a 'doomsday shroud.'"

Other real life individuals satirized in "Dr. Strangelove"--Adlai Stevenson (Merkin Muffley, America's president played by Peter Sellers); and General Curtis LeMay (General Buck Turgidson played by George C. Scott).

Curtis Lemay, SAC Commander

George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson

Dr. Strangelove

"Dr. Strangelove" is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece and my all time favorite movie. If you haven't seen it don't let another day pass without a trip to your nearest video rental for a copy.

"Dr. Strangelove" was made in 1964, in the middle of the Cold War nuclear standoff known as "mutually assured destruction (MAD)". Edward Teller had invented the hydrogen bomb not long before and was giving speeches around the country advocating a bomb shelter in every back yard in America. Kubrick's movie impaled this insanity with the satirical humor of Dr. Strangelove.

Peter Sellers, at the peak of his career, played three roles in the movie--Dr. Strangelove, an amalgam of Edward Teller, Henry Kissinger and nuclear war theorist Herman Kahn; the President of the U.S. and Group Captain Mandrake, an RAF liaison, the man who tried to prevent nuclear armageddon. Others in the star-studded cast included George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson (Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis Lemay), Sterling Hayden, General Jack D. Ripper, the Air Force Generral with his finger on the nuclear button and Slim Pickens as Major Kong in the memorable final scene of the movie. I've linked one video of a scene from the movie and will try to find a couple more. This is an absolutely "must see" movie!!

Dr. Strangelove The Doomsday Machine

Dr. Strangelove--the end video

Slim Pickens, "Major Kong" Scene

We Will All Go Together When We Go Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer--Werner von Braun


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    • profile image

      Emily 4 years ago

      cool that is freestyl imformaithion how many books have you wrote before? how long does it take 2 write just 1 book

    • profile image

      Emily 4 years ago

      cool imformathion i read this nerly every day

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks for your kind comment. Dr. Strangelove is one of the greatest American Movies. A comedy about a very serious subject.

    • Richard Fernandez profile image

      Richard Fernandez 6 years ago from Detroit, MI

      Fantastic hub. Very informative and an excellent exploration on the inspiration behind the character.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks for the link; I will check it out.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks for the comment. I think it was Stanley Kubrick's greatest movie out of his many great movies. It's got to be in the top ten American movies ever made.

      Well, AFI ranks Dr. Strangelove only #39. Citizen Kane was ranked number 1.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Interesting article and videos; I have watched this move at least 3 times over the last 20 years; I will have to view it again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this classic movie.

    • dandmanmusic1 profile image

      dandmanmusic1 8 years ago

      Gut Schtuff!!!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      It was indeed a great movie, Ralph. I have it on tape -- I'll have to drag it out and play it. Thanks for the entertaining hub.

    • profile image

      Dr. Strangelove 10 years ago

      Stanley Kubrick was a dumkopf und P.D. Smith a liar. There was only one Strangelove--me! Edward Teller.